Acorn employee proves it's never too late for a new career

Former bank manager, Ann Mullin from Undy in Monmouthshire refused to cash out on working life when made redundant in her mid-50s, and now after retraining, she’s looking forward to a whole new career developing skills in others.

Despite having already clocked up more than 40 years in employment, Ann says she has decades more left in the tank as she enjoys her new role as a training adviser – something she’d always wanted to do – thanks to the investment of her employers.

The fifty-six-year-old, who now works at Acorn’s Learning and Development Division in Newport, is one of a growing number of older workers in Wales refreshing their skillset in order to extend their working lives. Forecasts say by 2020 a third of Wales’ working age population will be aged over 50.

Age of Investment

Under its ‘Age of Investment’ campaign, the Welsh Government is urging employers to invest in the skills of older employees, both for the individual’s wellbeing and for the benefit of their businesses. Research shows employers need to hold onto the skills and experience of older staff both to be competitive and avoid a huge threatened shortage of workers in the next decade.

Based on UK figures, it is predicted unless more people continue working in their 50s and 60s, Wales could face a shortfall of nearly 300,000 people available to fill vacancies generated by new job creation and natural replacement requirements by 2022. Despite the need for workers, it is estimated over a million British people have been ‘forced out’ of the workforce by redundancy or ill-health while still in their 50s.

Refusing to fall into this category, Ann is instead looking forward to a new lease of working life. After impressing her new employers with her passion for the sector, at 55, Ann was offered the chance to become a Training Advisor with Acorn, despite not having the Training, Assessment and Quality Assurance (TAQA) qualification required for the role.

Potential 

Recognising her skills and potential, Acorn funded her to complete the course, which covers all the essential principles and practices of training assessment and quality assurance, helping her get up to speed with the requirements of the role and developing the communication and I.T skills, necessary for her to deliver apprenticeship, management and IT workshops to clients.

Acorn also facilitated Ann to complete her Level 3 Certificate in Learning and Development as well as her practitioner certificate in literacy – qualifications which she now delivers and assesses herself. The training has also helped Ann assess the needs of individuals, some of which have dyslexia, and tailor her approach and training materials accordingly.

And it doesn’t stop there; Ann is eager to keep progressing and is determined to carry on working for as long as she possibly can, with a number of training courses on the cards.

Real buzz

Commenting on her new career, Ann said: “I’d always wondered if it was possible to switch careers but doing so has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. I love my new job and get a real buzz from passing on my knowledge to other people and seeing them grow.

“I’m fortunate that I’ve found a position that draws on my past skills, but what I didn’t realise until recently is that I have also gained plenty of transferable skills over the years that could be utilised across many different sectors and roles. I would advise any experienced workers who are made redundant or want a career change that they don’t have to think their only choice is retirement.”

Ann Nicholas, Head of Corporate Development at Acorn said the firm recognised the huge value older workers bring: “We’re committed to providing training and support to all of our employees, regardless of age, and have seen first-hand the business benefits of investing in mature workers like Ann, who bring great experience and knowledge to their work.

Wealth of skills

“Ann had a wealth of skills from her previous working years which, combined with additional training, have proved invaluable in her new role. Ann is a real asset to the company and we would encourage more companies to invest in mature individuals - with vast experience, they can make a real contribution to a business.”

Julie James, Minister for Skills and Science urged more employers to invest in older workers, pointing out that research shows only 31% of employers currently have an HR Strategy for managing and developing older workers.

She said: “Older workers are a huge potential asset to the Welsh economy and we must make the most of that by continuing to update and adapt their skills. Employers who are willing to invest in upskilling these workers will reap the rewards and Wales will benefit. The skills of older workers are vital for our economy but work is also good for the health and wellbeing of individual workers themselves.”

She added: “We can’t afford to have skilled and experienced people leaving our workforce prematurely. Not only can they add value through their own work but also by mentoring and encouraging younger colleagues. Contrary to many myths older workers tend to be very flexible and adaptable and statistically have few absences than other employees,” she said.

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